The Chateau: A Novel

  • Review
By – May 23, 2023

Twen­ty years ago, four young women stud­ied in Avi­gnon, France and spent their sum­mer bond­ing at a mag­nif­i­cent French chateau in Provence. All these years lat­er, they receive a spe­cial invi­ta­tion to return to the chateau, sent by nine­ty-four-year-old Séraphine Demargelasse.

Séraphine feels her time is lim­it­ed, and she is com­pelled to dis­cuss her will and share long-hid­den secrets with the group. And there are so many many secrets that inhab­it Chateau du Pla­tane — as well as the women’s lives. Séraphine is bru­tal­ly mur­dered before she can reveal the past or dis­close the grave rea­sons why she has asked the women to assem­ble at the chateau. 

Dar­cy, Séraphine’s grand­daugh­ter, is in finan­cial and mar­i­tal dis­tress. Jade is haunt­ed by her father’s expe­ri­ences in the Holo­caust and the anti­semitism she cur­rent­ly endures. Vic­to­ria (Vix) has sur­vived breast can­cer, but is for­lorn about her breakup with her part­ner. Ara­belle, a suc­cess­ful French chef and entre­pre­neur, is the grand­daugh­ter of Séraphine’s long­time friend and ser­vant. These women, along with the seem­ing­ly inept groundskeep­er, become the prime sus­pects in Séraphine’s murder. 

Each chap­ter is nar­rat­ed from one character’s point of view, reveal­ing their motives and back­sto­ries. Some of the women had ties to one anoth­er before they stud­ied togeth­er, but all of their lives have since tak­en many dif­fer­ent cours­es. Duplic­i­ty, mar­i­tal affairs, chil­dren, and careers have com­pli­cat­ed and chal­lenged their friend­ships and dynam­ics. They each har­bor hid­den agen­das, long-fes­ter­ing deceits, jeal­ousies, and doubts that play out in their present-day relationships.

Clue after art­ful­ly dropped clue move this mur­der mys­tery and dra­ma through sur­pris­ing twists and turns. French cus­toms and sen­si­bil­i­ties are woven into the sto­ry, and Gold­is vivid­ly cap­tures the pic­turesque Provence towns, the coun­try­side, the chateau, and the local art and cui­sine. A har­row­ing Holo­caust sto­ry of betray­al and the his­to­ry of Van Gogh’s famous paint­ing Star­ry Night add depth to the mys­tery, and nefar­i­ous Insta­gram posts from @imwatchingyou88 lend a con­tem­po­rary and sin­is­ter component.

The Chateau is an engross­ing who­dun­nit and a mul­ti­lay­ered trav­el­og. The read­er won’t be able to stop guess­ing as they quick­ly turn the pages of this sat­is­fy­ing story.

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

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